The Weekly Wonk: February 24th, 2012

by | February 24th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments (0)

What’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk is dedicated to this week’s events, publications, and blog posts.

This week OK Policy presented a second study that further debunked a report being used by those trying to abolish the income tax.  Our new fact sheet summarized numerous flaws in their report.  Our work was cited in articles by Stateline, OU Daily, and the Associated Press on Gov. Fallin’s tax plan.  We prepared a memo that compares the major tax cut proposals in the legislature and launched an animated video that showed that in the Oklahoma v. Texas Economy Bowl, the team with the income tax is winning.

continue reading The Weekly Wonk: February 24th, 2012

Watch This: The Economy Bowl

by | February 24th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Watch This | Comments (3)

Is Texas beating Oklahoma because it lacks an income tax? That’s been a common argument made by proponents of eliminating Oklahoma’s personal income tax. But a new animated video from OK Policy bust the myths about our rivals to the south.

To learn more and find out what you can do, see our take action page. For all of OK Policy’s materials on the income tax debate, see our tax reform information page.

In The Know: House Speaker says any tax cuts must be revenue neutral

by | February 24th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that House Speaker Kris Steel said any final tax cut plan must be revenue neutral. A House panel rejected  a measure that would have outlawed transferable tax credits. The Tulsa City Council voted 8-1 to ask the Legislature to keep the state’s historic preservation tax credit.

Carl Davis writes in NewsOK that the “boom” in no-income tax states is highly overstated by tax cut proponents. OK Policy previously released a fact sheet that summarizes misleading claims made by tax cut boosters.

State Board of Education members said involvement in low-performing schools by the state would be cooperative, not a takeover. NewsOK writes that state funding for a trooper academy is an urgent need. An Oklahoma infertility doctor writes that the Personhood Act is anti-family.

A Senate panel approved allowing open carry of firearms. A bill introduced in the House would require background checks for school volunteers. Lilly Ledbetter, the inspiration for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, will present a free, public lecture at the University of Oklahoma on March 8.

The Number of the Day is the percent
age of 
federal
 transportation
 dollars 
spent
 on
 infrastructure for biking and walking in Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, a report from the Center for American Progess shows how racial stereotypes undermine public support for much-needed anti-poverty programs and lead to misguided policies aimed at solving nonexistent problems.

continue reading In The Know: House Speaker says any tax cuts must be revenue neutral

Upcoming Event: Lilly Ledbetter at OU, March 8

by | February 23rd, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Upcoming Events | Comments (1)

Lilly Ledbetter with President Obama

Lilly Ledbetter, the inspiration for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, will present a free, public lecture at the University of Oklahoma on March 8, 2012 at 7:00 p.m. in the Gaylord Hall Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation Auditorium, 395 W. Lindsey St.

Ledbetter served as a manager at the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Plant in Gadsden, Alabama for almost twenty years. Despite receiving the top performance award, she consistently received less pay than virtually all of her male co-workers. She sued and won a juryverdict of $3 million, which was overturned in a landmark Supreme Court case.

Recognizing the injustice of her situation, a campaign was started to pass a law that ensures that other victims of pay discrimination have more than 180 days after their first discriminatory paycheck to file a complaint. While she herself has seen no monetary awards, Ms. Ledbetter was honored to see that Congress passed and President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law on January 29, 2009.

For more information about the event, please email the Center for Social Justice at center.for.social.justice@ou.edu or call (405) 325-5787.

In The Know: Committee calls for Oklahoma insurance exchange

by | February 23rd, 2012 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that a legislative task force on the new federal health care law called for establishing a state-run health exchange. See the committee’s full report here. The committee did not say how the state exchange would be paid for. OK Policy previously explained why we may have already waited too long to avoid a federal takeover.

A House committee approved a bill to eliminate the state agency charged with enforcing Oklahoma’s pet breeding laws. The Tulsa U.S. postal center, which employs 600 people, is set to close and could begin winding down operations as soon as May. The superintendent of the OKC School District and the city’s school board president announced they would fight any takeover of struggling schools by state officials. The OK Policy Blog assessed the situation of Oklahoma schools after three straight years of budget cuts. The director of a Tulsa Medicaid provider explained how most public sector spending flows back into the community.

The Tulsa World explains why bills requiring drug-testing of TANF recipients are not in the state’s best interest. Kurt Hochenauer shows that these bills rely on false stereotypes about welfare recipients. Ethics Daily spoke with OK Policy for a story on how Payday lenders enslave the poor in a debt cycle. State Rep. Mike Christian’s said he wanted to question House staff under oath to determine whether they tried to intimidate judges in his workers’ compensation case.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of public school teachers in Oklahoma who are men. In today’s Policy Note, a study of unauthorized immigrants in Oklahoma City shows that restrictive laws have not caused immigrants to self-deport.

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Stuck in a Hole: What flat funding means for the common education budget

by | February 22nd, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Budget, Education | Comments (6)

After three straight years of budget cuts, funding for public education in Oklahoma is in dire straits.  This year’s appropriation to the Department of Education is $254 million, or 10.0 percent, less than it was in 2009.  In the past three years, funding to school districts through the state aid formula, which funds the basic operating costs of schools, has been slashed by $222 million, while public schools enrollment has grown by 22,000 students.  According to the most recent data, the number of teachers was cut by over 1,000 between 2010 and 2011, and this year it is likely there are fewer teachers still. Even though schools have tried to manage cuts while protecting class sizes, simple math dictates that more students and fewer teachers is leading to more kids per class.

Meanwhile, the Legislature has also cut the activities budget for common education, which funds health care costs for teachers and support staff, as well as a portion of retirement costs and programs that aim to improve teacher quality and student performance. This year,  the Department of Education was forced to eliminate or drastically cut a slew of programs, including adult education, alternative education, Great Expectations, A+ Schools, and Literacy First. With its activities budget slashed, the department also opted not to allocate $11.4 million to fund the $5,000 annual bonus promised to some 3,300 National Board Certified teachers and saved $37 million by funding only ten months of teacher and support staff health care benefits for current year contracts. Outrage in the education community over this failure to meet the state’s commitments on health care costs and board certified teachers led some elected officials to promise to make up the funding as mid-year supplementals to this year’s budget.

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In The Know: Senate panel votes to limit payouts to oil and gas industry

by | February 22nd, 2012 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that a Senate committee voted to limit payouts to the oil and gas industry to $150 million, though tax breaks deferred over the past three years would entitle them to twice as much. OK Policy previously explained how Oklahoma ended up on the hook to oil and gas producers. A House panel rejected a bill to require prescriptions for pseudoephedrine, and approved a bill that would allow cities to ban smoking in public places.

The OK Policy blog provided an update on how state budget cuts are endangering child welfare, public safety, education, and other core services needed for Oklahoma’s prosperity. Meanwhile, Gov. Fallin said a slight increase in revenue should go to more tax cuts. Fallin’s tax plan will go to the legislature next week, and a Senate panel OK’d two others.

Urban Tulsa Weekly reports on how Oklahoma is underfunding mental health and spending more on prisons. A bill that would allow creationism and climate science denial in public school science classrooms passed a House committee. StateImpact Oklahoma finds that education is the most common Master’s degree awarded by state universities.

The Number of the Day is the amount in annual Social Security benefits paid to Oklahomans in 2009. In today’s Policy Note, the New York Times reports on how Indian reservations have grappled for years with high crime rates, but the Justice Department files charges in only about half of murder investigations and turns down nearly two-thirds of sexual assault cases.

continue reading In The Know: Senate panel votes to limit payouts to oil and gas industry

How Oklahoma is falling behind

by | February 21st, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Budget | Comments (3)

Even as the economy recovers, it’s become increasingly apparent that there is no end in sight to Oklahoma’s budget woes. Oklahoma has seen three straight years of budget cuts, and according to one House leader, we may be in for a fourth. At best, this year’s budget will stay flat, which means we can accomplish less due to inflation, reductions in federal assistance, and continued deterioration of equipment and infrastructure that we can’t afford to fix. It also means the damage caused by previous cuts will continue unchecked.

We provided overviews on previous rounds of budget cuts here, here, and here. This is an update on a few more of the ways we’re falling behind in public safety, child welfare, education, health, and other areas:

Public Safety

  • The number of state troopers on Oklahoma highways is at its lowest level in 22 years. Without funds to train new troopers, the problem is likely to get worse because more than 1/4th of existing troopers are already eligible for retirement.
  • The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation has frozen hiring with 35 vacant jobs, and Director Stan Florence said further cuts would lead to furloughs. Inadequate staff has forced the agency to reduce investigations of the theft of equipment from oil and gas fields and curtail other investigative work.

    continue reading How Oklahoma is falling behind

In The Know: Speaker derails bill targeting gays in the National Guard

by | February 21st, 2012 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that a bill to reinstate the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the Oklahoma National Guard has been effectively shelved. A bill to require drug tests for TANF recipients passed a House subcommittee. TANF currently helps support about 5,000 adults and 20,000 children in Oklahoma. In 2009 OK Policy wrote about why a previous version of this measure is unnecessary, expensive, and counterproductive.

A second study has further debunked a report being relied on by those wanting to abolish the income tax. A new OK Policy fact sheet summarizes the numerous flaws in this report, which produced by Arthur Laffer and the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. Find more on the income tax debate at our tax reform information page.

The OKC School Board expressed frustration that they are still unclear about many specifics of a plan by the State Department of Education to identify and possibly take over failing schools. A Senate panel passed a measure that would increase the units of math required to graduate high school. Oklahoma is running out of a drug it uses to execute inmates, leaving the state looking at options to put people to death for capital crimes.

The Number of the Day is the amount of income for married couples that is not taxed in Oklahoma because of the standard deduction. OK Policy previously corrected false claims that Oklahomans’ first dollar of income is taxed. In today’s Policy Note, Governing reports that prison populations in the U.S. have declined for the first time in nearly four decades.

continue reading In The Know: Speaker derails bill targeting gays in the National Guard

No leg left to stand on: Laffer and OCPA debunked again

by | February 20th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (2)

The push to eliminate Oklahoma’s personal income tax relies heavily for intellectual support on a study done for the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs by economist Arthur Laffer and his colleagues. The Laffer report makes two claims: (1) that states without an income tax enjoy stronger economic growth, and (2) that abolishing the income tax would boost Oklahoma’s economy to such a great extent that the state would recapture a major share of lost revenue and not have to slash core services. Last week, we reported on a study from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) showing that when more accurate indicators of economic growth are used, states without an income tax are doing no better than other states, including Oklahoma. A follow-up ITEP study now reveals that Laffer’s second claim regarding the economic growth that will result from eliminating the income tax is equally dubious. Together, the debunking of its two main economic arguments leaves the OCPA proposal tottering.

continue reading No leg left to stand on: Laffer and OCPA debunked again